I was at my publisher’s office in Berkeley recently (handing out ice cream and sauce to everyone, if you want to know) and on my way out, the main editor handed me a copy of The River Cottage Meat Book.
At the time, I didn’t quite know why he pressed a copy in my hand since it’s not particularly a subject I’m always trying to learn more about. And when I felt the heft of the damn thing, I silently cursed his altruism—It weighed nearly five pounds, which translated to a full 5% of my entire luggage allowance.
But when I opened the cover, I quickly got over the fact he didn’t hand me a baking book and understood why he chose to give me this one instead.
In the opening pages, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Meat Manifesto contains the most sensible words about how to buy and why we cook meat that I’ve ever read. The design of the book lends itself to the subject, too. Presented like a textbook, The River Cottage Meat Book tells you everything you want to know about every possible kind of meat and poultry. And not only does it tell you, but shows you as well. Eschewing the typical nicely-styled look of most cookbooks, the natural, and sometimes disturbing photos that accompany the text include everything from cows grazing in the fields, to one on its way to meet its maker. And then some.
Instead of being horrified, I was drawn into the subject like I didn’t think I could be. If you’re going to eat meat, you should take responsibility for what you’re doing and Fearnley-Whittingstall presents a rational case for finding a reputable butcher, buying close to home and using what you buy wisely and with purpose.
Although there’s plenty of recipes, the real star of this book is the accompanying text. I’m devouring it for its comprehensive, rational treatise on all aspects of meat preparation and eating. It’s written with care and concern and is the most thorough exploration of the subject I’ve read and I share the chef/author’s well-presented opinions and have been engrossed in it ever since I got it.
In fact, the more I read, the more I realize that it’s well-worth the weight.